Shootout in the Desert

The Cal Bears are 2-0 (yesss!!) and full of confidence.

So are the Arizona Wildcats.  This should be an exciting game between two evenly-matched teams.

The Wildcats have put up some very impressive numbers in 2014 with their rushing attack, and their offensive scheme will put a lot of pressure on Cal’s defense.  That said, the Bears are probably the best defense that the Cats have seen this year, and with an extra week to prepare, hopefully DC Art Kaufman will come up with a way to confuse RS Fr QB Anu Solomon on the zone read plays, and get him to cough up the ball.

AZ’s O-line is the heart of their offense.  Four out of five OL starters return, and they’re coached by former Cal OL coach Jim Michalczik.  They’ll be looking to blow Cal off the ball & run.  We’ll see if Cal loads the box, & tries to force Solomon and his smaller/less experienced WRs to carry the load.  Rich Rodriguez’s offense is about taking what the defense gives them, so look for a lot of offensive production in this game.

On the other side of the ball, Cal’s short passing game should be very difficult for Arizona’s defense to stop.  Look for the Bears to move the ball with the pass to create opportunities for the running game.

Prediction: Cal, 42-38.  Jared Goff shreds the AZ defense.  Cal’s defense slows AZ just enough, and creates a couple turnovers.  Look for 2+ interceptions and 1+ Solomon fumble.

Game Day Salmon

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Dan bought fresh local King Salmon off-the-boat at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay from Jimmy of the Kimberly Rose – he may still have some today (415) 317-7437.

I’ll hand it over to Dan to tell you about his marinade and approach to cooking.  I had a taste this morning and it was fabulous.

And the nice thing is that you cook it at home and bring it to the game so no BBQ mess and smoke at the tailgate.

Hornets Beat the Spread?

As in beating the Spread Offense?  No.  As in beating the point spread.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think that Cal will win by a fair margin, but I don’t think it’ll be the shootout that some are predicting.

Just a guess:  Coaches Dykes and Franklin take the opportunity to run the ball.  And run.  Two rushes or more for every pass.  Give the OL practice with moving bodies, running the ball a lot in long, clock-killing drives, and blocking at the 2nd level.  The focus will be on the OL and blocking by WRs.

This offense is hungry to prove itself on the ground, and I think they were somewhat disappointed with their rushing production against Northwestern.  They have something to prove.  The whole point of a Spread offense is to spread the defense and open up the running game.  If we can’t sustain long drives on the ground against the Sac St. defense, then we’re destined to cling to the lower rungs of the Pac-12 ladder.

Look for Goff to throw deep occasionally to keep the Hornet defense honest, but I think they want to win this one the slow way.

 

Prediction: Cal wins, 31-17.

A New Season

A nail-biting win on the road sets Cal up to be 2-0 for the first time in a while.  Cal has taken the first step in their 12-step/game program to recovery.

While you can’t read anything into a single game, it would have been a shattering experience for the team to lose after leading 31-7, so their ability to defend and then hold on to the ball to the gun was impressive.

Next question: can they run the ball?  They will get to practice balanced offense against Sac State which will certainly try to pop the balloon – let’s hope that the Bears will carry forward the first two quarters of play last week.

I’m seeing 42-21 although problems with the Toms offense could see a more lopsided score – in any case I expect Cal to rotate a lot of players on both offense and defense to give them game experience so expect a few miscues.

With half of the Pac-12 ranked in the Top-25, most of the attention will be on the $C-‘furd and Sparty-Duck matchups which may weigh heavily on the selection of one of the four playoff slots.  All four teams will be great at the end of the season but who can play that well this early in the season? Home Cards and Quacks have the edge, but don’t be surprised if both games go OT when the kickers get to decide it (College football OT is almost as bad as World Cup OT with penalty kicks).

In early action, ‘zona squeaked by UTSA or was it USTA – or is that tennis?  Anyway, mark ‘zona down as another potential Cal road upset after the bye week.  3-0 may be possible, but let’s squash the Tomatoes first.

New for 2014: Golden Parking!

The 2014 Cal Football Season brings many exciting & new things to Strawberry Canyon:

  • A vastly improved football team!  (Yessss!!)
  • A new way to find a parking spot in Berkeley on game days!!

That’s right — if you’ve ever spent precious Saturday minutes searching high & low in every conceivable part of Berkeley & environs, cursing & blaspheming, wondering why there’s no @#%!&$* places to park in this town, as you listen to Joe Starkey describe the opening kickoff on your car radio, we offer a new & unique solution: Golden Parking!.

Golden Parking is a part of the iGoBears mobile app that helps drivers to find parking on game days in Berkeley. It’s crowd sourced — people who see a parking spot can post its availability with a couple clicks; Berkeley residents who have a spot in the driveway (or a guest permit), as well as groups, churches, or fraternities who have one or more spots available can post them, too — for free. All you need to do is stand where the open spots are, and click a button or two.  It’s easy to help a fellow Bear!

How Parking Bear Works

On any Home Game Day, you will be able to Share Parking Spaces and Find Parking Spaces with Parking Bear.

Parking Bear is only available from within the iGoBears! 2014 Bear Fan Guide mobile app, and is only available on Home Game Days!

Find Parking Spaces in Berkeley

Start the iGoBears mobile app.  Then simply touch Share & Find Parking -> Find Parking Spaces, and Parking Bear will give you a list of Available Parking Spaces in order of proximity to your location.
Each entry indicates whether the Parking is Street or Off-Street, the Number of Spaces Available, and, if Off-Street, the Cost of Game Parking.
Each entry is also time stamped so you can see how long ago the Parking Space was listed.
Touching a Parking Space brings up details with options for Directions and Street View.
You may also click on Map and Nearby to see views of the Parking Spaces on a Map.

Share Parking Spaces in Berkeley

Share vacant Street Parking spaces in Berkeley on Parking Bear by clicking on Share & Find Parking -> Share Parking Spaces, and touching Street and the Number of Spaces Available.

Share vacant parking spaces in a parking lot or on your property in Berkeley, by entering Share Parking Spaces, touch Off-Street, enter the Cost of Game Parking, and the Number of Spaces Available.

You just need to be near the Parking Spaces – Parking Bear will look up your street location and handle the rest.

We hope that this makes your game day experience in Berkeley a little more joyful — no matter how the game goes!  If you have any feedback, let us know at [email protected]

Don’t forget — iGoBears also has up-to-the-minute driving times from all over the Bay Area, plus real-time BART departures.  We’ve got you covered!

And don’t forget to download the iGoBears mobile app:

Go Bears!!

One Game at a Time: Cal vs. Northwestern

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Cal faced the #22-ranked Wildcats with the youngest & least experienced team in the entire FBS, including true freshman Jared Goff playing in his first college game — and everyone was playing their very first game in the Franklin System.

This year, Cal is vastly more experienced on both sides of the ball, and much stronger & healthier. Simply put, Cal has improved far more than Northwestern has since last year at this time. A stronger and deeper offensive line should give Cal the running game that it lacked last year, which made Cal’s offense one-dimensional, and completely dependent on Jared Goff.

Last year’s matchup with Northwestern was pretty even, except for the two pick-6s on tipped passes. Cal made several drive-killing mistakes & penalties that should be reduced with a year of experience. Even with those mistakes, Cal showed that it could move the ball against a solid top-25 team.

This year, NU is no longer a top-25 team — they’re down to somewhere around #41 in the USA Today poll, and that ranking might not include the transfer of RB Venric Mark, nor the season-ending injuries to top WR Chris Jones and DT Sean McEvilly.

Jim McGill, one of the key contributors at BearInsider.com, does a great job of summing up the differences between the 2013 and 2014 Bears in his article, “10 Reasons Why These Aren’t Your 2013 Bears”. I’m a big BearInsider fan, and I recommend the site highly!

OK, no more beating around the bush. Prediction: Cal wins, 48-28.

And for those who enjoy betting on college football, this Cal team might not reach the .500 mark for the season, but they will definitely beat a lot of point spreads.

Go Bears!

What’s the matter with Cal?

First, if you’re reading this through the iGoBears iPhone App, an update is on the way and will get to you before the first home game…

It’s been a tough couple of years for the University and its sports teams.

Baseball, gymnastics and rugby almost end up on the scrap heap.

Our love affair with Tedford ends, Monty retires, Sandy leaves, and the finances are a mess.

We’re probably the only University where someone from the Financial Services industry is brought in as interim Athletic Director, because we really need someone from the Financial Services industry to sort things out!

And the pundits now tell us that we could be the Underdog for every single football game this season.

I’m not going to argue that point – every team we face is pretty good, and even the not so good teams (CU, Wazoo) are starting Get Well programs.

At the same time, our team isn’t very well. Injuries are once again a problem, and the coaching staff can’t mask its own concern over lack of depth. And it didn’t help that a number of kids left in the off season.

Add to that once again one of the toughest schedules in the country, which would be fine if we were Alabama or LSU.

So rather than make the overly-optimistic predictions myself this year, I’m going to turn it over to my neighbor Dave who has been able to spend more time analyzing the plight of the Bears.

Dave predicts a 3 win season!

Sagarin preseason ratings are in parentheses. Cal at 62.

  • Aug 30 Northwestern (53) loss in opening game on the road
  • Sep 06 Sacramento State (171) win at home but could be interesting. State defeated Oregon St. in 2011, 29-28 and in 2012 defeated Colorado 30-28. Coach Marshall Sperbeck “football is not canasta” left the Hornets program this year.
  • Sep 20 at Arizona (29) loss in the desert as Coach Rich R mixes in the run with passing.
  • Sep 27 Colorado (95) win in a close game 
  • Oct 04 at Washington State (61) win upset on the road 
  • Oct 11 Washington (22) loss Boise coach Peterson has them pulling it out in 4th Qtr.
  • Oct 18 UCLA (21) loss to the Bruins.
  • Oct 24, Friday Oregon (2) loss at Levi Santa Clara, CA
  • Nov 01 at Oregon State (26) loss got the Bears number
  • Nov 13, Thurs. at USC (12) loss in LA.
  • Nov 22 Stanford (4) loss, too much talent at The Farm
  • Nov 29 Brigham Young (28) loss, but close to the end.

Pac-1x Tourney Preview

The first two matches are set for tomorrow with Arizona facing Utah and Cal facing Colorado again for the 2nd time in 6 days.

Cal is really on the bubble, currently one of the last one’s out in ESPN Bracketology and not on the map on CBS or SB Nation.  So it looks like they are going to have win at least one game (over Colorado) and possibly two (over Arizona probably) in the Pac-1x tournament.

Cal’s brethren in third place are all in according to the experts – Oregon as a #8 based on their winning streak, Arizona State as a #9, and Colorado and Stanford as #10 seeds.

So there are many questions here.  Colorado has already avoided a first-round loss, albeit by beating the lowly $C. Oregon looks the strongest after continuing their winning streak over the Beavers and now faces UCLA.

Stanford must get by the pesky Cougars and then face Arizona State.   Stanford clearly has the most to lose – a lost to the Cougs would probably dump them from the tournament.

If there was ever a situation for the expression “Cal controls their own destiny” – this is it.  The only way for Cal to guarantee a spot is to keep winning – I think it will take 2 wins in the tournament to get them in to the NCAAs – otherwise its the NIT.

On the women’s side, both Cal and Stanford lost in the tournament which probably wasn’t any surprise to folks who know this business.  Playing the extra games after a long season is just not cool for teams that have a lock on tournament bids. The real damage to Cal was done in their late season losses plus their inability to get a win over Stanford.  So they’ll end up as a #6 instead of a #4 (not a huge difference there) and get placed (for laughs and revenge I expect) in the Louisville bracket where they would meet the #2 Cards in Louisville in the Sweet 16.  Get by Louisville and the likely opponent (although don’t put any money on it) would be #1 Tennessee.  So do they have a shot at the Final Four again this year?  I say yes if they can overcome some of the mental mistakes and not be intimidated by the likes of Texas A&M, Louisville and Tennessee.  BTW, Louisville looked extremely vulnerable in yet another thrashing by UConn in the American Conference tournament.

Facing Number One

After having one of the best conference starts in Cal basketball history, the team has gone from “finding a way to win” to “finding a way to lose” – with players having career nights against Cal, the team shooting poorly (most of the time), and whatever it was that propelled them through the first 5 games seeming to vanish.

I think Monty had the best quote – he knew that these 4 games were going to be a step up because of the lack of common opponents so far in the season.  $C and UCLA hadn’t played the Norris Division schools yet.  So how good (or bad) were the Oregon, Washington and ‘furd schools?  How did they stack up against the LA and AZ schools?  I think we got our answer.

It’s a rare privilege to play a Number One team in any sport in any conference so tonight’s game is special, whether or not you think Cal has a chance in a million – although surprisingly Vegas has Cal as only a 5 point underdog.  Perhaps there is a concern over an AZ hangover after their close call in Palo Alto or just the hazards of the road (although expect 1/4 of the Haas of Pain to be Red tonight).  This isn’t the ‘zona teams of old – they are winning with defense (Seahawks?) and grind teams down to their lowest shooting percentages of the year.  I can remember the Lute Olsen teams would play with you and then – boom – a string of 3-pointers would change a 2-point game into an 11-point lead and that was that.

There is also the “hometown effect” which bewitches the Bears when they head to LA – the AZ products from the Bay Area have the distractions of family and friends as they play here.  In any case – really – a 5 point spread seems a great deal of respect for a team that has lost 3 straight and in not great form.  But if Cobbs and one of the supporting cast can get a hot hand and combine some jumpers and 3’s with inside play from Solomon and Kravish, one can see a recipe for, if not a win, a very close game.

The Pac-1x network is pulling out all the stops on Hoopla Saturday with 12 cameras at Haas instead of the usual 6, which you don’t see anyway since you don’t get the Pac-1x network.  So go to the game and lets try to make more noise than the AZ fans!

Basketball Preview

After getting our fingers, arms, legs and everything else burned with our predictions for the football season, we decided to submit our basketball season preview (men’s) at the turning point of the first half of the Pac-1x season.

And thank goodness we did.

The team is turning out to be a lot better than expected.  We saw this in person in Maui where a Cal team without Solomon nearly pushed now #2 Syracuse to the brink.  As would be expected with a team with a lot of young players playing a lot of minutes, they’ve had their ups and downs.  But for some reason with a tough opening 4 games to the Pac-1x season, the team has figured out how to win games against traditionally tough opponents on the road, including Stanford and Oregon State.

And they’ve done it in all sorts of imaginative ways.  Offense – scoring over 90 points.  Defense – holding teams to 25% shooting.  Free throws – shooting over 90%.  And so on.  Monty told the team that there would be a different hero every game.  And, to a large extent, he’s been correct with Powers and Mathews having big games.  And very quietly an interesting stat has emerged: Cal has 5 players averaging double figures for what has to be the most balanced scoring in the Pac-1x.  Add Solomon leading the Pac-1x in rebounding and Cobbs just a shade off the lead in assists, and this is quite a team.

Now with Bird returning to the lineup, Cal faces another tough stretch of 4 games with the LA schools on the road and the AZ schools at home.   Cal’s ascension has also followed on the heels of UCLA, Oregon and Colorado plummeting out of the Top 25 leaving just UofA and SDSU as the only West Coast representatives in the Top 10.  Cal is now #29 in the AP poll and #27 in the Coaches poll, ahead of UCLA, Oregon and Colorado.

So it’s put up or shut up time for Cal.  Let’s pull up a chair and enjoy!